Academic journal article Science Scope

Sparking the "Need to Know"

Academic journal article Science Scope

Sparking the "Need to Know"

Article excerpt

You may be wondering why Informal Learning is this month's Science Scope theme. After all, many of our readers are classroom teachers who have a specific curriculum that they are responsible for covering. The underlying concepts that drive informal learning, however, reach beyond the boundaries of museums, nature centers, and other institutions that are commonly thought of as delivering informal learning experiences.

Think about the last time you wanted to learn something new. Chances are you either looked it up on the internet to read more about it, watched a YouTube video, or asked the opinion of an expert. Whether your goal was to plan a trip or buy a new car, you conducted research for the purpose of learning information driven by your desire to learn. This type of learning, which often occurs outside the confines of a classroom, can be classified as "need to know" learning. It is very powerful because it is driven by authentic questions and our own innate curiosity. It is also very different from the type of learning involved when trying to master the information needed to pass a test.

So, how can we use the power of "need to know" learning in our classrooms when lessons tend to be highly structured and focused on preparing students for assessment? Diana Rhoten, director of the New Youth City Learning Network, believes that every child has specific interests that we should focus on to provide students with "an experience that means something to them personally. …

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